Practical Veterinary Applicant Advice

5 Dec

It’s easy to be a little starry-eyed when pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.  After all, this aspiration usually doesn’t appear suddenly.  You have been dreaming of this since your toddler days.  Many touchy-feely moments have contributed to this notion.  You are an idealist.  You want to help animals.  The realization that it is super-competitive to get into school, the work is long hours, and you will have dirty labor-intensive, pressure filled days is just not a deterrent.  Not after this long.  Not when you’ve already worked this hard to get to this point.

I hear you.  Really–I more than anyone, understand this process.  I have stupidly determindly applied to veterinary school 10 times.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating.  And no, I’m not bitter.  Truly.  But I have learned a few things that could have made my life, the process, and possible heartbreak of rejection SO much more bearable:

1.)  Life isn’t fair.  Even if you think you’ve worked harder, had more obstacles to overcome, and felt a stronger passion and calling.  Sometimes your plan is not the same as God’s *insert higher power you believe in here* and things are not going to work out the way you chose, or in your preferred time frame.  Believe in yourself, run towards your dream, but also be practical and realize it’s not the end of the world if it’s just not meant to be.  Maybe, just maybe you are better suited for something else, and you’ve been chasing veterinary medicine so long and hard that you have not realized it.  This brings me to my second piece of advice.

2.)  Consider (seriously consider) a back up plan.  Yes, veterinary medicine is THE dream.  That’s the number one optimal career goal, and the only thing you can ever see yourself happy doing.  Have a back up plan anyway.  This is of the utmost importance so I will repeat it:  Have a back up plan–no matter how far along you are in this veterinary endeavor.   Always.  I was accepted to Saint George’s Veterinary School.  Had my plane ticket and paid my class deposit.  Things were in motion.  Then, my loan fell through.  And I floundered–because I had never seriously entertained a back up plan.

3.)  Finally, the system (the veterinary admissions decisions) rewards numbers over substance.  Substance being passion, dedication, devotion to the career, animal experience, true involvement in extra-curriculars (as opposed to joining just to write it on the app), countless volunteer and work hours, etc. . .  Grades and to a slightly lessor extent, residency are important factors in veterinary admissions committee’s decisions.  As much as I do not like it, and do not agree, I have to work within that system–all applicants do.  Someone with a 4.0 who decided, like, yesterday that she loves petting animals and despite her fear of blood and aversion to hard work wants to be a vet WILL get accepted over a student with a lifelong dream, tons of experience, and a mediocre GPA.  Almost every time.  This is because schools can justify quantitative reasons over qualitative feelings about candidates.  And nobody wants to get sued.  Not fair, but use this knowledge to work WITH the system instead of against it.  Look at your dream school’s criteria, and most importantly, statistics of entering classes which will help you see just what kind of numbers you need:

Pullman, WA Class of 2015
Applications                                                                   Age
Total 1028                                                                     Average 24
Admitted 104                                                                Range 20-39
Female 81      Male 23


Number of Years in College                                        Times Applied Before Admitted
Average 4.75                                                                 1: 82
                                            2: 18
3: 4

As you can see, about 70% of the accepted students have a GPA above 3.5–it’s not mean to tell prospective students that a HUGE emphasis is placed on college grades (I’m talking to you, impractical veterinary bloggers).

Cumulative GPA                                                                        Total Science GPA
Average 3.552                                                               Average 3.473
Range 2.782-4.000                                                     Range 2.712-4.000
% >3.5:  69%                                                                  % > 3.5:  56%
% >3.2:  90%                                                                  % > 3.2:  85%
% >3.0:  99%                                                                % > 3.0:  95%

Hope in the Form of One Very Low GPA!  It looks like one person had a 2.78 cumulative and 2.7 science GPA and got in–so it CAN happen.  Although rarely, and I wonder what other amazing things that person had going for them. . .  But STILL–if they can make it, I we can too.  Just don’t forget it’s a slim chance statistically, so you should refer to my 3 pieces of advice above if you just got super-dreamy.


GRE Scores                                                            Highest Degree Held at Admissions
Cumulative % 58%                                                       No Degree:  10
Verbal Average 516                                                     Associate:  8
Verbal Range 350-800 (who is this jerk?)         Bachelor’s:  92
Quantitative Average 632                                          Master’s:  3
Quantitative Range 410-800                                     Doctorate:  0
Analytical Writing Average 4.17
Analytical Writing Range 3-6

It is also not unfair, or untrue to say that students with a veterinary school in their home state are MUCH more likely to be accepted.  WA has one of the most generous programs to give out-of-staters in close proximity a fair shake at acceptance.  Those that qualify under the WICHE program (western states without their own vet school) are given preference as well as residents.  That’s very different then most vet schools who accept in-state residents (only) much more readily then students from outside states (that have a vet school or not).


State                                    # Applied                           # offered                            # Accepted
Washington                         137                                     59                                        52
Idaho                                    35                                      12                                        12


WICHE States                    219                                     65                                        36
Arizona                                69                                       16                                        5 (WICHE 4, *NS 1)
Hawaii                                  21                                        4                                         1 *NS
Montana                              26                                       12                                        9 (WICHE 7, NS 2)
Nevada                                31                                        7                                          5 (WICHE 3, NS 2)
New Mexico                       22                                        9                                          6 (WICHE 4, NS 2)
North Dakota                     12                                        1                                          0
Utah                                    25                                        7                                          6 (WICHE 4, NS 2)
Wyoming                            13                                        9                                          4 (WICHE 4)


Other Out of Area             637                                     16                                         4
Grand Total                   1028                                  152                                       104
*NS = Non-sponsored

So good luck, and BE PRACTICAL about this dream of ours!

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